Atlas V Roars to Space with Sophisticated New Missile Warning Surveillance Satellite

[/caption]CAPE CANAVERAL – An Atlas V rocket carrying a highly sophisticated Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-1 satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from the seaside Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:10 p.m. EDT on Saturday (May 7) into a gorgeous clear blue sky following a one day delay due to cloudy weather conditions surrounding the Florida space coast on Friday.

SBIRS GEO-1 is the maiden satellite in a new constellation of next generation military space probes that will provide US military forces with an early warning of missile launches that could pose a threat to US national security.

Atlas V rocket roars to space with SBIRS GEO-1 satellite Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 7, 2011.
Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com
“Today, we launched the next generation missile warning capability. It’s taken a lot of hard work by the government-industry team and we couldn’t be more proud. We look forward to this satellite providing superb capabilities for many years to come,” said General Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander in a statement.

The planned quartet of SBIRS satellites will deliver a quantum leap in infrared event detection and reporting compared to the current generation of orbiting Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, according to Michael Friedman of Lockheed Martin in an interview with Universe Today at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

“The SBIRS GEO satellites will have both a scanning and starring sensor with faster revisit rates. They will be able to detect missile launches from the earliest stages of the boost phase and track the missiles to determine their trajectory and potential impact points,” said Friedman.

“SBIRS can see targets quicker and characterize the actual missile,’” explained Steve Tatum of Lockheed Martin at KSC.

In addition to providing improved and persistent missile warning capabilities in a global arena, SBIRS will simultaneously support missile defense, technical intelligence, battlespace awareness and defense of the US homeland.

“The 10,000 pound SBIRS GEO-1 satellite is the size of two Hummers. About 9000 people in 23 states were involved in constructing the satellite.”

“SBIRS GEO-2 will launch in the next year or two,” Friedman told me.

“GEO-2 is built and undergoing testing now,” added Tatum.

The $1.2 Billion SBIRS satellite was launched into a 22,000 mile high Geosynchronous orbit by the 189 foot tall Atlas V rocket. The Atlas rocket was in the 401 vehicle configuration with no solid rocket motors and includes a 4-meter diameter payload fairing.

The first stage was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10A engine.

SBIRS GEO-1 satellite bolted atop Atlas V Centaur rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 prior to launch. SBIRS is housed inside a 4 meter diameter Payload Fairing. Credit: Ken Kremer

The Atlas V rocket was built and launched by United Launch Alliance (ULA). This marks the 50th successful launch for ULA since the company was formed in December 2006.

“With this launch, ULA continues to demonstrate its commitment to 100 percent mission success,” said Michael Gass, ULA President and CEO. “This milestone is a testament to the dedicated employees that for every mission deliver excellence, best value and continuous improvement to our customers.”

Read my Atlas V SBIRS preview story here:
Atlas Rocket Poised for Blast Off with Advanced Missile Early Warning Spy Satellite

SBIRS GEO-1 Launch Photo Album by the Universe Today team of Ken Kremer and Alan Walters:

Atlas V rocket and bird soar skywards at Florida Space Coast
Liftoff of Atlas V rocket with SBIRS GEO-1 satellite as an Egret flies into camera field of view on May 7, 2011 at 2:10 p.m. EDT. View from the Press Site at the Kennedy Space Center:
Credit: Ken Kremer -- kenkremer.com
Atlas V rocket soars off pad 41 with SBIRS GEO-1 satellite for the US Air Force as another bird flies into camera field of view on May 7, 2011 at 2:10 p.m. EDT. View from the Press Site at the Kennedy Space Center: Credit: Ken Kremer
Atlas V SBIRS GEO-1 launch from Cape Canaveral on May 7, 2011. Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com
Atlas V SBIRS GEO-1 launch from Cape Canaveral on May 7, 2011. Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com
Exhaust trail from Atlas V SBIRS GEO-1 launch on May 7, 2011. Credit: Ken Kremer
Ken Kremer with Atlas V rocket and SBIRS GEO-1 satellite at Launch Pad 41, prior to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer

Atlas Rocket Poised for Blast Off with Advanced Missile Early Warning Spy Satellite

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CAPE CANAVERAL – An Atlas V rocket is poised to blast off today, May 6 , with the inaugural version of a new and highly advanced series of US spy satellites which will provide early warning of missile launches to US military forces. The Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) GEO-1 satellite is set to liftoff Friday afternoon at 2:14 p.m. The launch window extends until 2:54 p.m. EDT.

The new satellite for the US Air Force is considered to be one of the highest priority military space programs. Covert intelligence satellites played a key role in hunting down Al Qaida terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden in the recent military strike by US forces inside Pakistan.

This Atlas V rocket will carry the Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) GEO-1 secret spy satellite to orbit for the US Air Force on May 6, 2011. Credit: Ken Kremer

The Atlas V rocket with a Centaur upper stage was rolled out to the launch pad at Complex 41 on Wednesday morning and arrived at 11 a.m.

Twin track mobiles pushed the rocket and satellite combination about 1800 feet from the launch gantry – known as the Vertical Integration Facility – to the pad. Reporters and photojournalists including myself toured the pad for a photoshoot Wednesday afternoon.

The countdown has begun and clocks are ticking backwards for today’s planned liftoff.

Super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel begins to flow into the rocket shortly after noon.

The launch will be webcast by United Launch Alliance at this link:

Weather is the only concern and has deteriorated over the past few days. As of this morning the chances of acceptable weather has dropped to just 30% favorable due to the increasing threat of isolated clouds and rain showers. Weather conditions are currently overcast here in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral and are deteriorating with a good chance of thunderstorms. .

The SBIRS GEO-1 satellite will provide global , persistent, infrared surveillance capability to meet 21st century US military demands in four key areas including missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battle space awareness.

Later this year, Atlas V rockets will launch two high profile NASA Planetary missions to space; the solar powered JUNO Jupiter Orbiter in August and the Mars Curiosity Rover in November.

Beautiful clouds over Launch Complex 41 ahead of SBIRS GEO-1 spy satellite launch. Credit: Ken Kremer